Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The X-Out Improvement Finishing Series

This is something that I did on Monday with my elementary group and open gym and I thought was very beneficial. It is something we will do during the winter season with the high school aged players as well. It's something that should greatly help us in being better around the rim shooters, as we need to be. 

Pete Carril, former Princeton Univ Coach, talked often about having players be able to score in a number of ways around the rim. It's something I'm trying to do with our program here. 

What we did Monday was what I call the "X-Out Improvement Finishing Series". VERY SIMPLE AND BASIC, but I think it's effective in working with kids on their scoring around the basket. What I did was have the players do the drill for one minute, rest for 15 seconds, and do the drill a second time. The goal was to make MORE SHOTS the second time than the first. 

For the drill, place a cone at each elbow. The player that is up starts with the ball at the cone in triple threat. On the coach's signal (as time starts) the player dribbles inside the cone and performs the proper finishing move. After getting the ball out of the net the dribble outside the cone on the opposite elbow, around the cone, and back to the rim to do the same finishing move. The drill runs 30-60 seconds depending on time/space constraints (don't want kids standing around). After the first go round, the players get 10-20 seconds to rest. After that they repeat the drill and the finishing move a second time. The goal the second time is to get MORE MAKES than they did the first time. The emphasis is competing against yourself and improving. That is a major part of why I like it, you are not worrying about anything but bettering yourself. 

The finishing moves I use are:
-Regular layup
-Middle Layup
-Jump Stop Power Up
-Jump Stop, Step Across, Power Up
-Reverse Layup

If you don't have a lot of time/baskets, this can be a great drill for a station with partners. One partner does the drill, one times, they switch. The rest of the players are doing other stuff and only one player isn't moving. 

I may do all of them in a single day, but for reasons of practice/workout time I normally only do 1-3 per day and rotate which ones I do during the week.

Hope this helps. Thoughts? I have a thread open on the X's and O's of Basketball Forum on ideas with finishing moves. If you could help me out that would be great. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using the "Skate Dribble"

The "Skate Dribble" is a move where players push off their outside (non ballside) foot and move sideways, almost in a slide. It's a quick move that starts and stops fast. This is a great move because it makes the defender have to make a decision and the offense can try to take advantage of that decision, whatever it is.

To perform the dribble, the player simply pushes off with the outside foot, while pounding the ball on the same side as the direction you are moving. The player slides his outside foot after his inside foot has planted. The planted foot and slide of the outside foot help to stop the player's momentum so he can read the defense and make a move. It's only a one dribble pound and then you have to make a decision.

Then, it comes time to read the defense. If the defense does not move enough, because the dribbler moved laterally and not North/South, that will open enough of a lane for the player with the ball to drive the lane. The footwork, for me is always pound with the ballside foot (the foot that made the initial step) and attack by stepping first with the outside foot (the sliding foot) to seal the defender with the player's backside.

If the defense makes the slide and overplays the play (why it's important to slide and stop on a dime), the offensive player simply crosses over and attacks the other way. The footwork here is pound, slide, step with the ballside foot as you crossover. So you can cross step and seal off the defender.

This is a move series I have been working on a lot with my guys over the summer and I can already see improvements in how they attack the basket. Hope it can help you guys out as well. If the above description doesn't make sense, please let me know and I will try to better explain it! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Closeout: When the Defense is Most Vulnerable

I spent my Monday sitting down with a local college coach, and among the many things we talked about was his offensive philosophy. He's a good coach who has been at some Division 1 stops along the way in his coaching career. His comment to me about his offense was that he wanted to make the defense close out as much as possible and then take advantage of the closeouts mistakes. I like that and think it can (and should) be a part of any good offensive philosophy. It's nothing new, but something that I have not personally heard coaches specifically talk to players about often - taking advantage of the defense on the closeout.

Some mistakes the defense is going to make (and you should talk to players about) are closing out:

1. Too loose - this allows you to attack with a shot or a jab fake and drive.

2. Too tight - this allows you to simply blow by the defender or use a shot fake and drive.

3. Too high - going to allow you to attack low.

4. Too low - going to allow you to attack high.

Attacking the closeout defender is something that players should be taught and learn how to do. Hit a couple shots? Know the defender is going to close hard and probably be taken advantage with the shot fake or blow by. Have you driven a few times on this guy? Well, know he is going to close out softer and will likely be more apt to bite on a jab fake.

As always, simple things to think about that could make a big difference for your guys. Some of these things we at times expect players to know, but unfortunately most don't until they are told.

As a coach, how can we work more closeouts into our offenses? Three ways I can think of are:

1. Drive and Kick. The enter DDM or AASAA offensive scheme is predicated on beating people off the closeouts and getting to the basket.

2. Skip Passes. The skip pass is the ultimate way to get a closeout because normally you are making a guy go from help position (many times mid lane) to the opposite side of the court, lots of ground to cover. So if you like the idea of getting closeouts, try to get your guys to throw an occasional skip pass. These will also open up the lane for you as defenders start to cheat them.

Also, while watching a practice a DeLaSalle High School (Mpls. MN) I heard Coach Thorson say to his players: "One good skip pass deserves another". His idea was that if the player does not have a shot or immediate drive on the skip to skip it back because the defense coming to help side may have overplayed to get to help side.

3. Ball Swings. Swinging the ball side-top-side in rapid fashion is a great way to force defenders to move from help to ball in quick fashion. Notice the good dribble drive teams may swing the ball 1-2x probing the defense and waiting for that suspect closeout to occur so they can take advantage of that.

Anyway, there are some thoughts and ideas on taking advantage of closeouts. Hopefully you can find this information helpful!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The "Run Out Series" Drills

I have not shared drills for a while, so I figured I would throw one out there for you!

The "Run Out Series" is something I came up with my season at Bagley HS when practicing with 6 players and 1 basket. I needed something where we could get a lot of "game shots" (which I think are important) in a little bit of space. The best time to beat a defender is on the closeout and I wanted to also have a drill to work on that. So I came up with Run Outs and the Run Out Series

The drill is very simple and probably nothing new. One player starts at the elbow ready to shoot, the rest start in a line under the basket (or two lines if you have 4+ guys). The first guy in line has a ball (and the second if more than three in a line). The player with the ball passes it to the shooter and SPRINTS OUT WITH HIGH HANDS PAST THE SHOOTER AS HE SHOOTS. The runner then sets up to be the next shooter. The shooter gets the ball and passes it to the next guy in line. If there are only two he passes it to the new shooter and runs out at him.

This simulates a defender running out at you when you are trying to shoot, as happens a lot in a game. This shooting drill teaches you to focus on the rim and not let the defender distract you from shooting. I think it really helps our guys develop that shooting touch with a guy in your face.

Some of the points of emphasis are: Play low to high - knees bent ready to shoot on the catch, watch the rim not the defender, proper shooting form, good passes, and bring the ball into your shot pocket.

Then after you do that for a while (5 minutes or so) and want to change, you can have your offensive player shot fake and drive. Instruct your runners to run to the same side of the shooter every time so they don't collide. The shooter shot fakes (ball up, butt down), cross steps, and explodes to the basket for a layup or pull up jumper, your choice.

After you do that for a few minutes, have your player work on the straight blow by. Work on the recognition that the defender is straight up and out of position, and teach them to simply put the ball on the floor and drive the poor closeout.

After executing that, have your players work on the jab fake and shot. Tell them after blowing by, or against good close out defenders, they are going to play the drive. So we use the jab fake to freeze them and allow us to shoot. Instruct your guys to jab at them, get back to balanced and shoot. The runners should play dummy D and freeze on the jab fake leaving enough room for a shot.

What you have to remind your guys is that this is NOT a defensive drill. You are not working on defense here, you are simply working to get your teammates better. You have to run hard and work hard, but at the same time don't translate this to defense! I know some defensive coaches may not run this drill for that very reason, but I don't see it being a huge carry over.

Well, I hope that this is a drill someone finds useful, it's worked very well for me. You can have 6 kids at a basket (2 groups, 1 each side) and get a lot of game like shots in during a short span with this one.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Less is More When Done More Less

Does this statement above make sense?? Probably not, but let me explain it to you as it is one of the important parts of my basketball practice philosophy.

I do not believe in working on one thing, with one drill for a long time in practice. In my humble opinion it is better to work on a skill with a bunch of different short drills than one or two long drill. For instance, you are going to work on shooting for 20 minutes in practice on a given day. Instead of doing one drill for 20 minutes or two drills for 10 minutes each, I would MUCH RATHER have four 5 minute drills to accomplish the same things. I PERSONALLY feel that doing this fights complacency and boredom. I think it does a better job of teaching players to master skills and not simply master drills.

Furthermore, I would rather work on a given skill for a few minutes every day than for a long time for just one or two days. Some coaches like to spend 25 minutes a week on rebounding in one big 25 minute chunk. It is my belief that players will get more out of it if you do a rebounding drill 5 minutes each day for the entire week. Players seem to retain the information better when they are hit with it for a little bit every day.

One downfall of doing this is that initially it takes a little bit longer to teach all the drills. But once players have done the drills once or twice you can snap from one to the next in rapid succession with little downtime in between. The benefits of having a bunch of different drills greatly outweighs the time lost in teaching the drills, in my humble opinion.

I try to incorporate these ideas into practice every day. Keep things short, keep things different, and keep things moving. I think this makes practices and workouts flow better. What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to comment!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stationary Ballhandling Drills: WHY?!

This will probably be one of the things I post that a lot of people disagree with, but it is how I feel. How many of you spend practice/workout time doing stationary ballhandling? If any of you do, I have to ask: WHY?!

Stationary ballhandling is not an efficient way to learn how to dribble after the 6th grade, in my humble opinion. This is especially true of stationary ballhandling drills where the players do not dribble, but simply pass the ball around their legs or other body parts. Again, great drill for elementary school, but after that there is no purpose. Have you ever seen a player catch the ball and start passing it around his right leg? Have you ever seen a player go to half court and start dribbling figure eight circles? Didn't think so. I mean think about it, how inefficient some of these drills are in teaching kids how to dribble a basketball in a game situation.

I used to be a fan of such drills, but then a number of years back I watched a Forest Larson tape where he made some good points about the uselessness of stationary ballhandling and I agreed what his points. Almost all ballhandling should be game like and on the move. Instead of pounding the ball with their right hand, players should be dribbling around with their right hand. Instead of going around the right leg, players should be working on their between the legs direction change move - dribble, direction change, more dribbles. Players should work on, and get good at, using dribbles that they are going to find themselves using in a game.

The ONLY stationary ballhandling I like to do is with two basketballs. Then you are really working on coordination and ball control skills. It's also much more efficient because you are working both of your hands at once. In a good 5 minutes of two ball stationary, you can accomplish as much, or even more, as someone can do in a 10 minute session with one ball.

Also, the ONLY TIME I COULD EVER SEE DOING ONE BALL STATIONARY DRILLS is if you have no gym space and are doing it for that reason. If that is why you have to do it then I understand.

As always it comes down to taking a look at what we do as coaches and then asking the important question: Why do we do it? I think a lot of us use stationary single ball ballhandling drills for two reasons:

1. We grew up doing them. This is a reason many of us use for doing a lot of what we do, but not a good enough reason to keep doing things! :)

2. They are seen as solid, fundamental drills. I understand where people are coming from on this one. There is something romantic about working hard on these drills. It is also seen as a walk before you run kind of thing. But again, I would rather have playes what I work with doing game situation ballhandling. There is such limited time in each practice and workout, so why not spend time working on game situation ballhandling, ballhandling they can actually use?

Thoughts and feelings on this?

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Taking the Air Out of the Ball"

Coaches often talk about metaphorically "taking the air out of the ball" during a game to slow things down and usually nurse a lead. But what about physically taking the air out of the ball during practice to work with your team on passing and sharing the ball? Have you ever thought about doing this?

I had not until last night when I was filling all of our basketballs with air. This would be a good way to practice in order to teach your guys how to score without dribbling. There are many, many coaches out there who practice their offense with no dribbles, but I think actually taking the air out would be a nice touch as another way to spice up practice. I would call it "dead ball offense" and during a game when I thought we were exhibiting too much individual play I could possibly call the ball "dead", meaning players were not allowed to dribble. Now it's not going to work if you run DDM, but for most offenses it could be interesting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The "Gonzaga Game"

I was talking with basketball fan and blogger Kevin Alsteens the other night and he was telling me about what Gonzaga does from time to time during their scrimmages.

Coach Few sets an amount of time for scrimmaging and puts a rack of balls on the side of the court. Each time there is a turnover in the scrimmage that ball is "dead". It is put off to the side and another ball is taken off the rack. This continues until there are no more balls on the rack. If there are no balls left and the last ball is "dead" on a turnover, the players run sprints for the rest of the time set aside for scrimmaging.

I think this is a great idea if you want to get your guys to emphasize ball security. It makes sure that each possession is important.

What I think would be a good idea as well is during scrimmaging have a rack of balls for EACH TEAM. The team that runs out of balls first runs while the other watches. I think one rack for both teams may lead the defense to be a little less aggressive because if they cause a turnover, it gets the defense one ball closer to running as well.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Goal Posters

Something I picked up during my time at LaCrosse Central HS under Coach Fergot was having "The Goal" sheets for each game you play. I think that these are great to help keep your team focused during a season. It keeps your guys from thinking about the last game or the next and keeps them thinking about the game currently at hand. 

"The Goal" sheets were simply a piece of 8x11 paper that was laminated. On the paper it had Central vs Opponent (whoever it was) Below it was the Central Logo and below the Central logo was the bold words The Goal: 1-0. It was hung in the locker room where everyone could see it. It was hung almost immediately after the previous game concluded - at least when the players left the locker room at the end of the night. So after each game, win or lose there was a new goal to focus on. If the game was won, and the goal was accomplished, there was another spot in the locker room where the sign was hung to mark the accomplishment of each goal. 

This is a great idea because it narrows the focus of your team. Instead of worrying about being 22-0 on the season, they can worry about being 1-0 22 times. It also helps with a team that's either very successful or very unsuccessful because it makes them focus on the next game and not the season as a whole.